Palmdale

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This article is part of
"Robin's Personal Memories Project"
Click here for information on Special History Projects
This article is part of "Robin's Personal Memories Project"
The information on this page is from my personal history and memories
and should NOT be used for any reason other than reading enjoyment


<- Early Days - Index - Palmdale 2 ->


What follows is a narrative history of my time in Palmdale. I have been able to verify most of the information with my Mother to insure historical accuracy.

Palmdale

Just prior to moving to Palmdale, my father was working at Northrop (of Jack Northrop fame) in Hawthorne, CA He headed up the Inspection Department for Northrop-Hawthorne. He was given a promotion, and he became the Facilities Inspector for Northrop-Palmdale.

The Roberts family packed up and moved to Palmdale a few months later. At that time, Palmdale had a total population of 596 souls. Our family of six, moving into Palmdale, raised the population by over one percent. This move was the harbinger of things to come, and within a very few months, Palmdale population exceeded fifteen thousand.

The infrastructure was stretched beyond breaking. For a few days, we "camped out" in a converted chicken coop. The local grocery stores weren't big enough to even hold enough food for 15,000 people, so The Roberts family often drove into Bakersfield to go shopping. The Roberts family kids went to school in churches, an old movie theater, and a converted, closed store.

Also see the page [ Palmdale 2 ]

Air Force Plant 42

My father was working as Facilities Inspector, and later as "Radar Observer Test Pilot" for Northrop's F-89 Scorpion aircraft. I have included several "funny stories" about his experiences on the Northrop page.

"The Fort"

Our house on Sweetbriar was "the last house before the real desert". The field across the street was destined to have houses built on it the following year, but for now, it was open desert. I asked my dad if it would be all right to build a "fort" in the field across the street from the house.

My dad saw a workman creating a fire break with a road grader in the field and asked him if his kids could build a fort. He said he saw no problem with it. That winter, many of the kids in the neighborhood got busy. We would dig holes, place lumber over the opening and then backfill over the lumber to provide camouflage in case we were invaded by “space aliens”. (Editor's note: You need to remember that this was the mid-50s, and we were sure that the aliens were just outside Earth-orbit, looking for the ideal landing site.) We even carried the excavated earth away from the fort and distributed it around the desert to hide any evidence of our fort's existence.

The following year, our friend with the road grader returned. Our fort “swallowed” a D-10 caterpillar tractor, so well that a derrick had to be built to help extricate it from its earthly tomb.

When the owners of the tractor threatened to sue, my dad was able to defuse the problem by asking the driver, “Did you, or did you not, give them permission to build a fort?”

Another win for our side!

Ted Elder

Main article: Ted Elder

My grandfather, Ted Elder, was a trick horseback rider and one of the original "horse whisperers". Ted was one of the original stunt riders and stood in for many of Hollywood stars.

Ted was one of the "stand-in" chariot drivers in the movie, Ben-Hur and was one of the first riders to develop (and be filmed) riding "Roman Style" (Two horses, side by side, with one foot on each horse.) He later made a living by appearing at rodeos and exhibitions, jumping his horse over a flaming automobile. (Yes, I still have the photos!)

Painting of Ted Elder jumping a horse over a flaming car

Ted had a ranch "Out East" (now called Lake Los Angeles). The desert around Palmdale is strange. The ground is fertile and it can grow almost anything, if you have enough water. There is plenty of it, IF you wish to drill a 50' well.

Ted and his Mormon buddies got together seed money and Ted began welding couplers onto pieces of aluminum pipe. The individual pipe sections were light enough for one man to carry. You string them together from your well to where you want the water. Later, he welded larger diameter pipes and mounted them on wheels. You connect these leviathan lawn sprinklers to a central water supply, and they would "walk" in circles, day after day, dispensing much needed water to the farmers fields. His company name was "Rain For Rent".

If you log in to Google Earth and search for Palmdale, California, you will see quarter mile and half mile radius circles throughout the area. They are fields grown using water from "Rain for Rent" irrigation systems. Those "crop circles" are one of my grandfather's legacies.


Many of the farmers grew livestock and/or melons. Every mile or so, there would be a man-made reservoir for agriculture or cattle. They are about a hundred feet or so on a side, and anywhere from five to twenty feet of water in them. We kids would ride our bikes out into the desert, looking for reservoirs. They were very easy to spot: they had tall, green trees growing around them. We would strip to our underwear and swim in our own private lakes. Sometimes, it would be just "us guys", at other times, it would be "coed".

On one occasion, one of the guys "left the pool" to urinate. He went over to the fence line, where he "started" to relieve himself. I say started, because as the urine hit the electric fence, he would spasm (stopping the flow) and yell. Nature would kick in, and he would start, and then stop, and then start ---- Well, you get the picture.

Press Releases

Sun Valley Flashbacks
Cowboy Ted Elder and his daredevil jumping act at the Sun Valley Rodeo. Ted rides two horses at once while jumping over his flaming automobile. His assistant stands ready with a hose should things get out of hand.
May 13, 1931—The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune—(Chillicothe, Missouri)
"Suicide" Ted Elder, presenting one of the super thrills of the 20th century, standing on the backs of two thoroughbred horses while they jump over an automobile. Many have tried to duplicate this dangerous feat but lost their nerve and Elder is the only man today who has successfully attempted this feat.
From The Cowgirl Hall of Fame website
One of Connie Griffiths’s favorite tricks was the Ted Elder Suicide Drag. She hung behind the horse with her head completely disappearing between the horse’s hind legs while her pointed toes danced in the arena dirt. Connie was one of a handful of women to incorporate this trick into her performance

Two Shay Ranch

Mr. and Mrs. Shay had a little "guest ranch" about fifteen to twenty miles to the west of Palmdale on Bouquet Canyon Road. With Palmdale temperatures regularly reaching a hundred degrees or more during the summer, a lot of the residents sought cool places to visit. My folks, along with a lot of Northrop employees (and test pilots) visited Two Shay Ranch every weekend. We would leave Palmdale early on Fridays (usually right after lunch) hop into the wood covered station wagon and head west. Arriving at the ranch, we changed to "uniform of the day", swimsuits and sneakers. Friday evening, there were BBQ steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs served with potato salad, a green salad and my Mom's barbecued lima beans. After dinner, all the parents would sit around the pool and/or campfires, talking about their work and the "hairy escape" that they had made: another type of Monday morning quarterbacking. By dark, almost everyone had drunk enough of "whatever they were drinking" that they were in no shape to drive back down the mountain roads and into Palmdale. Two Shay was probably equipped to handle about thirty or so people, but (as I remember it) we must have had nearly a hundred people there. We had people sleeping on sofas, in hammocks, in sleeping bags, and occasionally on a blanket in the back of the station wagon.

Chuck Yeager, his wife Glennis, and their four kids were among the people who visited Two Shay. Amongst others, Johnny Whitehead, and scores of other pilots were regulars.

These days, Two Shay Ranch is a California State Park. (2007)

Pancho Barnes & The Happy Bottom Riding Club

From http://www.panchobarnes.com/ website

Florence "Pancho" Lowe Barnes (1901 - 1975) was born to a wealthy and prominent Pasadena family. Her mentor and paternal grandfather, Thaddeus Lowe, was a famed balloonist, who developed aerial reconnaissance techniques for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, and is considered the Founding Father of the United States Air Force. He was also a brilliant entrepreneur, who accumulated immense wealth from inventing an artificial ice machine (which was the first form of refrigeration that allowed cross-continental shipment of perishables), a coke oven, and an incandescent gas system for lighting cities. Her maternal grandfather, Richard Dobbins, was a famed architect and engineer, designing and building hotels and public buildings in several East Coast cities, including designing and building the official buildings for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Through the years, grandfather Dobbins invested his money wisely in real estate, including purchasing major hotels in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia. The Dobbins side of the family was even more wealthy than the Lowes. Granddaughter Florence would eventually inherit the bulk of these combined estates.

Pancho regularly went off by herself on long trips to South America, and traveled extensively within the USA. One adventure had her jumping what she thought was a banana boat to South America, only to find when it was out of port that it was actually running guns to Mexican revolutionaries. Of course this only delighted her, and she took up the cause. It was on this trip that her traveling companion, Roger Chute, christened her "Pancho." Throughout her life, Pancho traveled extensively in Mexico, and had an especially fond place in her heart for the Mexican people and culture.

The The Happy Bottom Riding Club (originally called the Rancho Oro Verde) was Pancho Barnes' most famous and successful creation. Club members could fly in to Pancho's FAA approved airport, attend rodeos at her championship rodeo stadium, ride horses from her well-stocked horse corral, dance in her dance hall, have drinks at her bar, eat the best steak of their lives in her restaurant, swim in her large circular pool, and then decide to do it all again the next day by checking into her hotel. Additionally, on her 380acre ranch, she had a thriving dairy, cattle and hog business. During the height of the Happy Bottom Riding Club's success, there were over 9,000 members worldwide. You never knew who would show up at the Club for a steak dinner, sit in with the jazz combo, or sing with the other customers at the piano bar. It was not unusual to find heads of state, high ranking military, actors, actresses, famous writers and artists, and perhaps even your next door neighbor at Pancho's bar and restaurant. At Pancho's, everyone who liked to enjoy life, laugh and have a good time was welcomed. Pancho was fond of saying, "When you have a choice - choose happy!" Well, when you went through the door of her club, it was quite clear that you had chosen the happy path for the evening!

With these changes in place, Rancho Oro Verde came to be known world-wide as the 'Happy Bottom Riding Club,' and was the meeting place and clubhouse for the test pilots, military personnel, designers, mechanics and engineers responsible for advancing aircraft design and breaking the sound barrier. It is amazing to imagine now, but before Chuck Yeager actually broke the sound barrier for the first time, it was widely believed that this achievement was going to be impossible. But as Pancho used to tell the naysayers, "Impossible is NOT a fact. It is an opinion." She was proven correct one afternoon in October 1947.

The 'Happy Bottom Riding Club' was home to General Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, A. Scott Crossfield, Henry H. Arnold, Frank Kendall Everest, Jr., Bob Hoover, Jack Ridley, Kirk Kirkorian, and all the pilots with "[[The Right Stuff". During the 1940's and 1950's, the glow from Pancho's large circular swimming pool at her 'Happy Bottom Riding Club' became the unmistakable landmark and beacon for pilots flying over the Muroc Lake bed. Pilots landed on Pancho's private airstrip to pay tribute to the famous aviatrix, swap stories and partake of her generous hospitality and to relax at what had become the watering hole for the most famous pilots of the day. Pancho's 'Happy Bottom Riding Club' had become center stage for the superstar pilots of the supersonic age.

Most people don't remember much about Pancho, but when you say, "In the movie "The Right Stuff", there was a bar run by a crusty old broad who had a sign, "There are old pilots, there are bold pilots, there are no old, bold pilots" hanging behind the bar. That "crusty old broad" was Pancho. A legend in the aviation community, Pancho was one of the first female pilots to be licensed in the United States, and one of the most respected pilots of the Golden Age of Flight.

The entire Roberts family made regular visits to Pancho’s for steaks and a swim.

Muroc

The Corum family owned a really big chunk of land, mostly a dried up lake, to the north-east. When the Corums tried to get a Post Office built there, the name "Corum, CA" was already in use. With typical "California" aplomb, they decided to register their name spelled backwards, and hence "Muroc, California" The nearby dry lake was later renamed to Rogers Lake and became part of Edwards Air Force Base when the country entered World War II.

Wagon Wheel Lake

On the south side of Palmdale, just east of the old Sierra Highway is Wagon Wheel Lake, which one of my favorite places. I would ride my bike down to the lake and spend the entire day fishing. Quite often, several other kids and I would spend our time exploring "areas of the Earth that had yet to be explored by Modern Man", or playing "Cowboys and Indians" or recreating movie plots. Many Saturday mornings included a trip to the local theater to watch "the next chapter" of one of the movie serials playing at the time. (see Perils of Nyoka)

Needless to say, Palmdale became a pivotal moment in my life and my interests in BDSM.

Lancaster & AVJUHS

The "Antelope Valley Joint Union High School" was located in Lancaster, about eight miles north of Palmdale. When we lived in Palmdale, AVJUHS was one of the largest school districts in the USA. Students were being bussed from as far away as Gorham, CA, about fifty miles away. Several friends banded together to convert the Gorham school bus. They ripped the old plastic seats out and replaced them with airline-style seats, complete with tables that folded down from the seat in front and overhead lights so the students could do their homework, or tilt the chairs back and sleep.

Also see the page [ Palmdale 2 ]

"The Westerns"

This article became so large, so quick that I have moved the entire article to Westerns


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